Scooby Doo “Misogyny Incorporated”

I’ve always liked Scooby Doo cartoons.  Maybe the “spooky” plots appealed to my budding love of horror (as a child), or maybe I just had the same love of the ginormous and dopey Scooby that I imagine was pretty common.  And in it’s current incarnation Mystery Incorporated, I can enjoy a show that has survived, relatively unchanged, with my daughter.  

But maybe that’s the problem.  It is relatively unchanged.  Despite the more modern technology included in the newer episodes, and the added element of fairly shallow relationship drama between the characters, the same ol’ costumes the characters have always worn are not the only thing that is painfully retro about this show.

I'm always stoked to see the characters in anything besides their normal outfits, even if it is a stereotypically sexist situation like...ugh...the girls at a spa.

I’m always stoked to see the characters in anything besides their normal outfits…even if it is a stereotypically sexist situation.

Though featuring some pretty decent names in the voice cast– Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Patrick Warburton as the recurring character, Sheriff Stone, Gary Cole, Vivica Fox, Francis Conroy, Tia Carrere, Jeff Bennett (animated voice actor heavy weight!), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs!!!) and Casey Kasem (radio personality and the original Shaggy)– I’m a bit disappointed in Mystery Incorporated.

Hanna- Barbera, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network had an opportunity here to not only revamp this old series, but to reel in a new generation of kids with trickier plots, smarter technology, and better role models…and they failed miserably.  I realize it’s just a cartoon, and but doesn’t the inclusion of an element of mystery sort of imply they want kids to be interested while they are entertained, and to think?  

Instead. what we got was the same old boring formula.  Sure, the some of the monsters may be a little more innovative, and the Scooby and “the gang” have more electronic toys available to them to help them on their way, but that’s pretty much the extent of the changes.  I realize the creators and producers likely want to stay sort of loyal to the originals; if they changed too much, the show might lose some of it’s nostalgic appeal for older viewers like me.  Playing devil’s advocate though, how many of today’s viewers really have any frame of reference in regards to the older Scooby shows??? Wikipedia is more generous in their assessment of the show, stating:

 […]the series takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classic Scooby-Doo formula (similar to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!), with increasingly outlandish technology, skills and scenarios making up each villain’s story, and a different spin on the famous “meddling kids” quote at the end of every episode. Contrasting sharply with this, however, are two elements that have never been used in a Scooby-Doo series before: a serial format with an ongoing story arc featuring many dark plot elements that are treated with near-total seriousness, and ongoing relationship drama between the characters.

But what rankled me the most about the show is something that was probably present in the earlier shows as well, but was likely something I just didn’t pick up on as much in my younger days, and that is the overall superficiality of the characters and the reinforcement of cliquishness and stereotypes.

Daphne is the “pretty one.”  She’s a rich girl from a rich, snobby family, and she simpers over Fred as if being the object of his affection and attention her life’s dream.

And poor Velma.  She’s smart and she’s the techie of the group (if you discount Fred’s obsession with ridiculously elaborate traps.)   She’s curvy and wears her signature skirt, turtleneck, knee socks, and glasses…  And she is still alluded to as being the homely, nerdy, lonely, and even fat girl of the group.  Fat???  Since when is having boobs and a butt a bad thing?  Oh, right…in this country the “prettiest” women on our magazine covers are as narrow and devoid of curves as a twelve year old boy…  And everyone is subject to our scrutiny.

I forgot...this is America, so apparently, this is fat...

I forgot…this is America, so apparently, this is fat…

The other day I saw an episode about a villain that was performing some sort of love spell on people, resulting in immediate and random pairings of characters– just whoever they happened to be standing next to at the moment.  Granted, it was always a perfectly even ratio of male to female characters– no sexually ambiguous pairings on this show!–  But that didn’t stop Daphne from pointing out,  in a shocked and appalled voice, the fact that “nerds” and “cool people” were suddenly in love!  Eeek! The humanity!

There’s another character on the show named Marcie Fleach.  Her nickname is “hot dog water.”  It made me giggle at first…until the characters went on to characterize her;  she’s smart… but she’s rumpled and messy looking, and she allegedly smells like “recycled water used to cook hot dogs.”  In short, she’s the class freak, and she’s portrayed with in the same “ugly betty” way as Velma (basically, if they didn’t tell you she was supposed to be ugly, you probably wouldn’t think it.)  I know I’m not the first person to notice the way “smart” people are always categorically considered “ugly.”

Ugly Betties

Ugly Betties

Those of you who are regular readers know that I’m not generally in the habit of making mountains out of mole hills, but for some reason, this annoys the piss out of me.  If I really think about it, it’s probably because this type of categorization is so adolescent.  It’s introducing our young children to “the IN-crowd,” teaching kids that it’s normal and okay to ostracize people based on how they look.  It’s reinforcing immature stereotypes that start in elementary school and (more and more frequently lately) result in bullying and violence in high school.

I’m not trying to be all chicken little here.  The sky’s not falling, or anything because of this stupid kid’s show.  I just basically don’t like snobby people or bullies.  That kind of behavior is not something I want my daughter to learn, pigeon-holing people into groups (which are then basically judged as worthy or not worthy of inclusion.)

What do you think, gentle readers?

36 responses to “Scooby Doo “Misogyny Incorporated”

  1. Great post!
    Things like this have been in my head lately.
    The way women are portrayed is usually ridiculous, the smart and cute is not possible, unless, she’s a smart kick ass girl, in which case she always has to show more flesh than necessary. Just take a look at the video games, women must be almost half naked.
    Velma was always my favorite character, Daphne always got on my nerves.

    • Daphne is a ditz for sure. And it’s interesting you mention the “smart kick ass girl.” The “hot kick ass girl with an attitude” is another trope I am tired of for sure!

  2. “I’m not generally one to make mountains out of mole hills…”

    Moving on.

    Her name is Velma?? I thought it was Thelma! What the fuck kind of name is Velma?? Answer me!!!!

  3. It’s wierd, because I thought a lot of cartoons were changing this type of stuff. I guess I don’t have a ton of experience, because I’ve only seen an episode of Ben 10 at work. But that had a strong female character. I don’t know… They’re jerks.

    • I dunno. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because my typical view point is not to make a big deal of this type of thing. I mean, it’s just a cartoon, right? But maybe the fact that it seems to occur a LOT in this particular cartoon is part of the problem. Not just sexism, but also “classism” and petty “cliquishness.”

      • Yeah. I fell like as younger generations take over, it’ll get better. But that may be wishful thinking. You should watch Batman The Animated Series instead. Always good.

  4. I don’t think that you made a mountain out of a molehill at all! These tropes can do a lot of damage to our early perceptions of self. When girls stop acting smart when they hit middle school because ‘smart isn’t sexy’ we have a real problem with this. I was truly disappointed when I let the kids watch the show last night. I had hoped that a more modern show would have been absent the sexist stereotypes. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

    • Yeah, I really am usually pretty “chill” when it comes to most things. I’m not uber feminist, and I give a lot of TV shows a pass, because it IS just mindless entertainment, and in this case, a kid’s show. But this particular show really annoyed. Kids get bombarded with these stupid ideas enough by other kids at school and by society enough. And not just the sexism, but the whole “nerds and geeks” thing that crops up in this show too.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. I’m watching it now, with my two daughters. I was initially delighted when the reruns of the late 60s/early 70s versh were aired. The kids loved them, and it gave me a major nostalgia rush. And then I found there was a 90s series that was pretty good, with its power pop tunes and vague hipster referencing. And now this, nicely made, but written by sexist pricks. Its constant reliance on trad girl/boy roles is utterly depressing, and I hate that my kids enjoy it. The only thing I can do is always point out the crappy sexist tropes when they crop up.

    • I know…and if your kids are really young like mine, they prob look at you like, Dad, what are you TALKING about??? lol… Thankfully, my girl is on Superheros now, DC and Marvel, so I think that’s a step up at least!!! Thanks for reading!

  6. You have no idea what you’re talking about. The plot on this new installment has been the most tricky, well thought out, comprehensive, and imaginative of all time. Just because you are use to the old Scooby cartoons doesn’t mean that you can judge with such bias. You obviously haven’t watched enough episodes to make a valid opinion. Also this show wouldn’t be the same without the classic costumes, but they do cleverly add new twists to each character besides making their personalities more dynamic in general. The “sexist” clothing Velma and daphne are wearing in your picture is from being at a spa. Normal spa clothing. No sexism despite you trying to force your victim card.

  7. We just found this cartoon on Netflix and was horrified at the amount of senseless shallowness and sexism. Not something I want my four years old daughter to watch.

    • Truth. I know it sounds silly to some people. It is just a cartoon. But we still live in a society where a lifelong collection of this kind of thing is what brainwashes girls into becoming women who don’t know their own worth.

  8. Glad to see somebody look at Mystery Incorporated with Disgust.

    And the worst part is that they’re some people out there that claim this is the best Scooby Doo ever. Yeah! Look at the YouTube and many, many reviews. They’ll say it. Which I claim many of them are anime fanboy man-children who refuse to grow up.

    Here’s what I tell them: While I won’t act like Scooby Doo is a masterpiece of western animation. I will admit when it did things right, it did it right. I was a fun cartoon that was creative and fun. And it respected kids and it respected adults.

    And when I watch this it makes me sick to my stomach. The other incarnations show us that Scooby Doo was a lot more adult than many people give it credit for.

    • As a kid I loved Scooby Doo, because I guess even at that age I loved mystery and “scary” stuff… But as a parent who has already seen how subtle gender typing affects my daughter (with some of the things she says about what boys and girls “can” aned “can’t” do/where/etc), I did not like the messages that came from this incarnation of the show.

      • This incarnation was trying to be more “adult” after the previous incarnation (What’s New Scooby Doo) turned off the adult crowd. It turns out they succeeded, but for the wrong reasons.

        I know watching the two incarnations, there is a good Scooby Doo incarnation trying to get out that appeals to both kids and adults. You just need someone who knows how to update the characters and story without seeming too desperate or obnoxious.

        • I don’t know why they think that the characters need to be bratty stereotypes to appeal to kids. If anything, they can use this as an opportunity to exemplify what “good” behavior looks like. They wasted it. le sigh

  9. I’m going to say this:

    While I’m not going to say that Scooby Doo is a masterpiece of Western Animation, but when they got things done right, they done things right. That’s what makes Mystery Incorporated such a punch in the face for the franchise. It tried too hard and ended up being very shallow.

    The worst part is that people everywhere defend this show as the best Scooby Doo ever.

    If you really want a good Scooby Doo that did a really good job of updating the characters. Try A Pup Named Scooby Doo. It did a good job updating the characters and giving them personalities that seem fit for the time period. (Although some argue that they made the boys stupid in that one.)

  10. You bring up some excellent points. Also, I think it’s really sexist the way Fred is constantly ordering everybody around. Why can’t Velma give the orders when she’s a lot smarter than he is?

  11. Yeah. As someone who’s been analysis this show. I think I understand the problem with this show.

    That being how the Scooby-Doo gang are all essentially the same character.

    Look at this episode where they need to investigate a winery. Velma is in a Frenchman’s outfit. Now here, the joke would’ve been funnier because it would be so out of character. Because here she doesn’t like getting dressed up in another outfit. (Hell, in that same episode, she refused to wear a swimsuit.) So her being in something goofy like that should be hysterical. But it’s not because they’re all dressed like that.

    In another episode, Daphne eats a bar of chocolate and goes insane. This is a quality you could give to ANY of them and it would make no difference. It would be the same reaction, the same lines, the same impact. If it was Fred, the joke would’ve been the same. If it was Velma, the joke would’ve been the same. Hell, if it was Shaggy and/or Scooby, the joke would’ve been the same.

    Even in OTHER Scooby-Doo incarnations. (Even going to the original.) The Scooby-Doo gang always had different personalities. I mean true. They weren’t the most fleshed out of characters. But they DID have different personalities that you could tell them apart.

    Here. There’s too many times where they’re all idiots, all obsessive, all bewildering goofs with no discipline for character.

    They’re differences are too minor. For example, Fred is obsessed with traps, Daphne is obsessed with Fred, Velma is obsessed with Shaggy (see the sexist talk you put there) and Shaggy and Scooby are (big shock) obsessed with food. And it’s all being made fun of throughout the series. Outside of that though, they usually all act the same way.

    Like you said here. Even though the voice acting and performances are still good. When ANYTHING in the script works it’s all WHAT’S being said that’s important. Not WHO said it.

    • You raise some valid points. They are shallow. mostly one dimensional (in the literal sense) characters. That said, no matter how interchangeable and vapid the characters, they can still be teaching our kids shitty, cliquey behavior. Just interchangeably. lol Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Also here’s another thing.

        It’s the same problem as Teen Titans Go!

        But even Teen Titans Go (whenever you like it or not) is a goofy comedy and dumb jokes without any discipline for character.

        Mystery Incorporated if they want to be this dramatic storytelling: CAN’T!

        And many people always tells me: “This show (Mystery Incorporated) inspired Gravity Falls.” But Gravity Falls had used it’s characters and story. Mystery Incorporated doesn’t care about it’s characters and that’s why the show failed as a complete whole.

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